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Business succession is a key part of the estate planning process

Many individuals draft wills once they accumulate assets or when they marry, get divorced or have kids. Others may simply have a power of attorney drawn up to allow someone else to make health care or financial decisions on their behalf. Few engage in business succession planning, though.

If you want the business that you've built to remain in operation long after you're retired or you die, then you'll want to begin planning now for the future ownership and management of it.

One of the first steps you'll want to take is to identify prospective owners of it whether a family member or a private buyer.

After identifying them, you'll have to find out when they're interested in making the purchase of your company. You may find that they're more inclined to offer a full asking rate if they can purchase sooner than later or if you're willing to guide them through the transition.

Another reason to identify a new owner early on is so decisions about how the company will be managed in the future can be made. If you decide that an existing employee will be groomed for this role, then you may need to start training them now. If someone new is going to be brought on-board, then bringing them up to speed may take some time.

By making these decisions early on, it will allow the new owner to decide whether they're going to have a different hierarchical structure. They may need to bring in outside consultants to study whether this may help make operations more efficient. This can take time. If changes are made, then delegating new responsibilities or on-boarding new staff may take time.

The old owner may also be called upon to serve as a sort of liaison between the old and new regime when it comes to dealing with shareholders. If the outgoing owner hangs around during the transition, it helps convince shareholders to remain committed to the new owner's process.

Some of the most hotly contested issues that end up with loved ones fighting over assets in probate court include such things as savings, jewelry, homes, art collections and businesses. Do your family a favor and consult with a Mahopac estate planning attorney to learn more about how being proactive in making business succession plans will ensure that potential conflict is kept to a minimum.

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